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2021 Kia Sorento X-Line AWD

New Sorento X-Line ups the SUV ante …

Choices are rife in the mid-size crossover/SUV market and Kia is not making it any easier.

The fourth generation Sorento is another fine offering from the South Korean car maker, this one offering a third row seat to tempt buyers away from its kissin’ cousin, the Hyundai Santa Fe, reviewed here recently.

Sorento and Santa Fe are nearly identical in size, ride on the same platform and offer identical power choices, two internal combustion engines (ICE), one hybrid with a supporting ICE, and a soon-to-appear plug-in hybrid. I tested a gorgeous Aruba Green (grayish metallic green) X-Line model. That’s top shelf.

If you’re a family with enough regular passengers (5) to fill a Santa Fe, but often car-pool for school or to kids’ athletic events and need more space, well, Sorento has you covered. It sneaks in a third-row seat that would allow six to seven passengers, depending on the second row configuration. This test unit had captain’s chairs, so would coddle only six. Go with a second row bench and Sorento will lug seven, but at least a couple need to be pre-teen.

Second row seats fold forward for access to row three.

The third row is snug, as are most third rows. If the second row riders can be convinced to slide their seats somewhat forward then knee and legroom isn’t bad, but the third row seats are low-riders (close to the floor) so a person’s knees rest up near the chest. Yet for short hops to the soccer field, etc., kids can manage. My 12-year-old grandson had no problem sitting in row three. Sort of enjoyed it!

Three-row seating differentiates Sorento from Santa Fe.

Aside from that, there are just minor dash and accessory differences between Sorento and Santa Fe.

Sorento is handsome with a good-looking nose featuring a hexagonal grille pattern and in back are snazzy two-bar vertical LED taillights, one shy of looking an awful lot like Mustang’s taillights.

To accommodate that rear seat the wheelbase also grows 1.4 inches from the Santa Fe, and the X-Line also comes standard with AWD, a wintertime winner in Wisconsin.

Watch Mark’s review: 2021 Kia Sorento X Line review by Mark Savage – YouTube

Handling is good and the Sorento is easy to park. Go around fast bends on the highway and it’s well planted, no body lean to be concerned with. Power is up from the previous model too with a turbocharged 2.5-liter I4 in this model. It creates 281 horses while the non-turbo version in lower trim levels makes 191, certainly adequate.

Five drive modes allow the driver to dial up Sport to firm steering and goose the acceleration, but at highway speeds it was fine to rotate the console knob back to Comfort to ease the ride and steering effort, while lowering engine RPM.

Ride is fine on the highway too, but sharp bumps in town are felt and there’s a little more rock and roll on uneven pavement, but nothing concerning. Road noise is a bit more noticeable than I found in the Santa Fe, but wind noise and engine noise are well controlled.

Kia adds a dual-clutch 8-speed automatic transmission to help its efficiency too. I found it mostly shifted smoothly, with just a little early acceleration lag. Plus gas mileage is good, so the tranny appears to help. I got 25.7 mpg in about 80% highway driving, about the same as the Santa Fe that I drove roundtrip to Indianapolis. The EPA estimates 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.

An attractive nose and grille give Sorento a high-end look.

Sorento also touts plenty of safety gadgets, like Santa Fe. All the usual goodies are standard such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, forward collision avoidance and assist with cycle recognition, rear cross-traffic avoidance, lane-keeping, and parking sensors. Better yet, the lane-keeping can be turned off to avoid odd steering patterns in town when there’s construction and debris to dodge.

Kia also includes turn signals that engage side-view cameras and project those images on either side of the driver’s instrument cluster. Bravo! Santa Fe also has this.

Sorento’s interior looks upscale with attractive quilted leather seats.

Inside the test crossover/SUV is attractive and well arranged. First, the dash and doors use fake open-pore wood trim to give the X-Line a luxury look. It works. Other trim on air ducts and the instrument pod and door releases is satin chrome while around the screen and by the gauges and atop the console is black gloss trim.

Seats are a caramel brown leather-like material that’s perforated, plus heated and cooled. Sorento’s dash is black as are the door panel tops that feature caramel leather inserts. The leather steering wheel also is heated in X-Line.

A logical and attractive layout makes the Kia’s dash a winner.

Mid-dash is a 10-inch screen that’s easy to see and simple to use while the buttons and knobs are well arranged and labeled. I also like the dual level air vents that adjust to aim air where you need it. Visuals are nice and simple to adjust on the wide instrument cluster, oh, and also change appearance depending on what drive mode Sorento is in.

Overhead is a panoramic sunroof with power shade, an SOS system and a power hatch in the rear. Below the center stack is a wireless phone charger that’s easy to slip a phone in and out of. I liked it better than the Santa Fe’s arrangement. Just remember your phone when you get out of the vehicle. I forgot mine several times. Some vehicles warn you if a phone is in the charger, but not Sorento.

The quilted leather also spiffs up the door panels and that’s open-pore wood look trim by the door release.

Note too that if you’re hauling a lot of kids to games and school you’ll only have room for groceries behind that split third row seat. Fold it down though and there’s plenty of space, and a little hidden under the cargo floor. For folks carrying longer items there are buttons inside the hatch to release the second row seats for a flat loading surface.

Two quirks continue to concern me on Sorento and Santa Fe. First, the seats seem hard to me and my tailbone began to ache after about an hour in the driver’s seat. There needs to be more hip support and a softer seat surface may help too. The lesser concern is that rear door child-proof locks are activated by rear seat window locks. So if a driver wants to prevent kids fiddling with windows they also will be locking the kids in. You must remember to turn that off when you stop the SUV or the kids won’t be able to get out without your help.

On the plus side if you’re planning to tow a small boat or trailer, Sorento, like its cousin, will tow 3,500 lbs.

Pricing for the Kia is a smidge higher than for Hyundai’s Santa Fe, but just. A base front-drive Sorento LX starts at $30,560 and there are a variety of trims up to the top-level X-Line that was tested. It lists at $43,760 including delivery and the test unit nudged to $44,285 with three minor options.

That’s on the low end for a three-row well-equipped SUV, so value remains a Kia (and Hyundai) strong point. Note that Kia’s next model up, the Telluride, has been winning a lot of awards and is just a few inches longer in wheelbase and length, so is another strong choice, but costs several thousand more.

There’s also the hybrid Sorento that costs a bit more, but delivers better fuel economy and the plug-in version that should be out later in 2021. So choices are many and Sorento remains a strong candidate for families who need seating for four or five regularly, but desire the flexibility to carry a few more kids on occasion. Consider it a tweener in the mid-size SUV market.

FAST STATS: 2021 Kia Sorento X-Line AWD

Hits: Handsome redesign, good handling and more powerful engine, plus AWD. Decent ride, panoramic sunroof, third row seats, power hatch, 10-inch screen, clear button arrangement, turn-signal activates side-view cameras, nice visuals on instrument cluster, heated/cooled front seats, heated wheel, large cargo area if rear seat down, roomy interior, wireless charger, and stout safety device lineup.

Sorento’s taillights are reminiscent of a Mustang’s 3 bars.

Misses: Interior could be a bit quieter, lower seat cushion is hard and stirs some tailbone burn on longer drives. Rear door locks are activated by rear window child-proof locks and not intuitive. Santa Fe was similar.

Made in: West Point, Ga.

Engine: 2.5-liter turbo I4, 281hp

Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch automatic

Weight: 4,120 lbs.

Wheelbase: 110.8 in.

Length: 188.9 in.

Cargo: 12.6-75.5 cu.ft.

Tow: 3,500 lbs.

MPG: 21/28

MPG: 25.7 (tested)

Base Price: $43,760 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $41,844

Major Options: X-Line rust interior package, $200

Carpeted floor mats, $210

Carpeted cargo mat w/seat back protection, $115

Test vehicle: $44,285

Sources: Kia, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2020 Ford Edge ST AWD

Edge ST’s twin-turbo adds a major power bump …

Since crossovers are king at the moment it’s understandable that Ford, or any vehicle maker, would want to grab every niche within that market, hence the Ford Edge ST.

While the ST would welcome family buyers, as do the other Edge models, this one takes aim at the performance-oriented buyer that’s not afraid to spend a little, or more, extra for said performance.

So, while an entry-level front-wheel-drive Edge buyer may be happy to be economical and spend just $32,195 (MSRP with delivery), an ST buyer may be willing to part with $44,510 (MSRP with delivery) to even upwards of $50 grand. Continue reading 2020 Ford Edge ST AWD

Die-cast: NEO’s 1981 AMC Eagle wagon

AMC Eagle wagon beat crossover trend by decades … NEO 1981 AMC Eagle wagon

History seems to show us that the innovators, the forward thinkers are not always rewarded with success.

Consider the move over the past 25 years to AWD vehicles and crossovers in particular. Then consider the American Motors Eagle wagon. It was an early crossover to be sure, based on the Concord sedan, but with AWD, a higher ride height and enough room in back for loads of luggage. Continue reading Die-cast: NEO’s 1981 AMC Eagle wagon

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

New Hybrid Accord comfy family sedan with top-notch mpg …2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

            Honda’s Accord is a car that’s hard not to like. It’s comfortable, handles well and provides a first rate ride. There’s room for four or five adults and the trunk is sufficiently large. Sexy it ain’t.

Now add a hybrid power system and well, for many, yawning will ensue.

Honda though has tweaked its 2017 Accord to cut a few pounds, add a little overall length, which aids trunk space, and given it a 16-horsepower boost. Refinement defines the Accord, which has been around now for 40 years. Accord never has been about sexy, it has been about service. Owners get their money’s worth in fuel and design efficiency.

The new Accord hybrid punches up its pony power by 16, now at 212 horses, but still with a modest 129 ft.-lbs. of torque. The tested dark red Accord features a 2.0-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder gas engine along with a hybrid electric system. Power is applied smoothly via the electronic CVT (continuously variable transmission), and the car is exceedingly quiet, inside and out.2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

But while the Accord cruises like a champ, it’s still fairly slow away from a stoplight and takes a while to wind up to highway speeds. There’s an Econ button to further slow the shifts to save fuel, but I left the test car in normal mode just for the small boost of power it provided. That said, there IS a Sport button on the console that actually gives the Accord more power away from a stop. You’ll want it engaged, a lot! Continue reading 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe 4Matic

Mercedes’ sporty C300 coupe a smoothie …2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 coupe

            Mercedes-Benz is on a roll. Not only has its Formula 1 racing team dominated for three straight years, now its street cars are back on top of their game.

A couple years ago I sort of fell for the C300 sedan and now, in the dead of winter I get to drive the C300 coupe with 4Matic, Mercedes’ all-wheel-drive system. Glad I had the extra grip as we had snow and slush and sloppy roads during the test.

This model features slimming sporty coupe lines that make it stand out among today’s usual humdrum car designs. And while it leans heavily toward sport, the luxury and pleasantness of the sedan are ever present.

The C coupe rides on the same smoothing 111.8-inch wheelbase and weighs a bit more than the sedan at 3,770 lbs. The car feels deliciously well balanced.2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 coupe

As in the sedan Mercedes delivers a scrumptious blend of sporty power, the eager 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 that kicks out 241 horses, and comfort. All that starts with a silky 7-speed automatic transmission that easily harnesses the turbo’s 273 ft-lbs. of torque, and cushions the ride with independent suspension at all four corners.

Ride is absolutely stellar, controlled and easy on the occupants, but still responsive enough to be sporty. Cornering is smooth and as precise as you want it to be courtesy of Mercedes’ Agility Select system that allows the driver to toggle through four settings, from Eco, to Comfort to Sport to Sport+. Continue reading 2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe 4Matic

2017 Ford Escape Titanium FWD

Ford refines its Escape crossover . . .2017 Ford Escape

For 2017 Ford has restyled its popular Escape inside and out, plus developed two new engines for the entry-level sport-utility, er crossover.

There’s no mistaking the Escape for something else as its profile remains much the same, but there’s a new hexagonal grille, LED trim headlights and revised tail-end styling. Overall the look is a bit more upscale, which is ironic because Escape remains very much a low-end to mainstream crossover for a family of four.

It’s roomy and comfortable and the new 1.5-liter I4 EcoBoost engine in the tested top-tier Titanium model is stellar. Pricing and gas mileage also are in Escape’s plus column.2017 Ford Escape

Let’s start with acceleration, which is excellent with the new turbo I4 that delivers 179 horsepower and a similar 177 torque rating. Escape is quick from a standing start and the fine 6-speed automatic shifts easily and smoothly.

The turbo is standard on the Titanium model, but the base S model starts with a 168-horse 2.5-liter I4 and an incredibly peppy 2.0-liter turbo I4 is available for $1,295 extra. It boasts 245 horses and a 275 torque rating. For most of us, the smaller turbo will do. Continue reading 2017 Ford Escape Titanium FWD

2016 Lexus NX 200t F Sport

Lexus NX proves looks still matter …Lexus NX 200t F Sport

Looks matter in much of life, sometimes fairly, sometimes not. But good looks are so rare in small crossovers and sport-utes that when one has them, it deserves more than a passing glance.

Lexus’ NX is a looker. I’ve said it before, as I’ve tested this vehicle a couple times, and I’ll keep saying it until some other car company out-designs the NX. Its taillights look three dimensional even from a distance and the front lights are big checkmarks laid sideways. Its interior is angular and attractive too, the test unit featuring dark red leather seats with black trim — this is not your German cousin’s luxury crossover!

My test vehicle was the NX 200t F Sport with all-wheel-drive and decked out in a bright sparkling white paint job. Finally, a car that isn’t gray! The white accentuated its spiffy styling, and as in past drives, outside of a stiff ride and horribly clunky radio/navigation tuning system, the NX is a delight.

The 200t features a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 with variable valve timing. It creates 235 horses and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s plenty of power for a small crossover. The turbo does exhibit some lag under normal acceleration, but flip the dial on the console to the Sport setting and boom, the power is stronger and more instantaneous. I drove it in Sport most of the week, although it resets to the Normal setting every time the vehicle is turned off.Lexus NX 200t

Lexus’ NX 300h that I tested earlier had a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with hybrid system to create 194 horses, but it is down on torque and seemed lackadaisical on acceleration. Gas mileage was better in the hybrid, at 29.9 miles per gallon as opposed to 24.5 mpg this time. The EPA rates the 200t at 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. Your call, but I prefer the turbo’s power. Continue reading 2016 Lexus NX 200t F Sport

Audi Q7 3.0T Quattro

Audi’s Q7 ute lives up to its hype …2017 Audi Q7

I’d read some early reviews of the Audi Q7 full-size sport-utility and thought them suspiciously glowing, like a parent telling how great their kid’s violin concert had been.

Well, count me among the converted.

Big sport-utes are generally luxurious land barges that’ll pull a load and haul a load of people. Audi’s new 2017 Q7 will do all that, but in addition to power it delivers ride and handling.

The back story is that Audi didn’t make a 2016 model, skipping that model year because it intended this model to be an early 2017 release. It was planning a big upgrade, as in the use of a lot more aluminum in the body and overall structure, cutting 474 lbs. from the 2015 model. Audi also upgraded to a 5-link suspension front and rear and managed to lower the truck’s center of gravity by 1.7 inches. No small feat.

audi Q7bAll of that adds up to a more manageable ute, one that rides and handles much better than its predecessor.

Power still comes from a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that creates a solid 333 horsepower and 325 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s sufficient to pull 7,700 lbs. of trailer too.

The V6 is linked to an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission that shifts smoothly and delivers enough power to the Quattro 4-wheel-drive system that in the Dynamic drive mode the Q7 actually feels quick. There are four other Drive Select modes, Winter, Automatic, Comfort and Individual. Each can impact the steering effort, acceleration and ride, but Dynamic is the most fun. Continue reading Audi Q7 3.0T Quattro

2015 BMW M235i xDrive

BMW1Ultimately, BMW’s M235i a great drive

BMW made its mark in the U.S. market years ago with the likes of the BMW 2002, a compact sporty handling car that could run circles, or ovals, or whatever shape you wanted, around most other cars. It was quick and lithe and fun to drive.

But as all cars, BMWs included, have grown in dimensions, especially weight and length, many Bimmer fans have bemoaned the Bavarian firm’s stray from the small coupe market. Some of us also wish there were still an “Ultimate Driving Machine” that a few more of us could afford.

Well, BMW nails, or should we say re-nails, the lithe fun sports coupe with its 2 Series. A base 228i with 240-horsepower and a manual transmission now comes in at $33,050 including delivery, so in line with an average car’s cost. I’d love to drive one in that trim. Yet this week I was granted an audience with the M235i xDrive, which takes the 2 Series to its raciest extreme. The M with xDrive drops a 320-horse twin-turbo I6 into the smallest BMW coupe with terrific results.

That twin-turbo pumps out a delicious 330 ft.lbs. of torque and turns the 2 Series into a street legal racer. Slap down the throttle and the M235i pushes you back in the seat and you hold on to the thick leather-wrapped steering wheel praying there are lot of winding roads just over the horizon. The car’s steering is moderately heavy, but extremely precise, exactly what you’d expect from a BMW. Yet the coupe doesn’t feel heavy, tipping the scales at just 3,695 lbs.

Ride is good, not as comfortable as the marvelous 428i that I drove last year, but then it rides on a 110.6-inch wheelbase compared with 105.9 inches in the 2 Series. Five inches goes a long way to smoothing rough roads. Still, as in the 4 Series, the M235i mates the superbly designed suspension with BMW’s Driving Dynamics Control system that adjusts the chassis and modulates the engine’s power curve too. Continue reading 2015 BMW M235i xDrive

Chasing Classic Cars: A jewel of a Jag and a T’bird with clipped wings

I carry my phone with me all the time!

So I live just a couple of minutes north of Pewaukee Lake, one of Wisconsin‘s largest. On the east shore there is always something going on. Many times I’ll sit with the family when we get ice cream. They’re looking at the sunset 1961 Jaguar XK-150 Convertible, rare Jaguars, collector cars, classic cars, british cars1961 Jaguar XK-150 Convertible, rare Jaguars, collector cars, classic cars, british carswhile I’m looking at the road. So one night we come out of the ice cream shop and what parks right in front of me but this 1961 Jaguar XK-150 convertible. Sorry for the darkness of the images. This model represents the ultimate development of the XK-series cars prior to the advent of the XK-E. Three SU carburetors feed the 3.8-liter engine with valve actuation by dual overhead camshafts and a Weslake-developed ‘gold’ cylinder head. It is virtually identical in all specifications to the XK-E 1951_Kaiser_Darrin, Kaiser autos, Darrin, collectible cars, rare cars, fiberglass cars, chassing classic carspowerplant. The 150S offered the owner/driver the combination of sparkling performance and handling blended with a level of comfort and luxury rarely encountered in thoroughbred sports cars of this period. This is owned by the same guy who owns this Kaiser Darrin. Only made them one year. Fiberglass body and the doors slide it. He is going to keep it un-restored just like you see it here. He also has a Tucker. That’s one heck of a collection. A check with Hemmings and I found alot of Jags that were daily drivers, most in mid five figures but the really good one’s were bumping up to 200K. This car is in that class.

A T’bird that’s a dead bird from a collectors standpoint

This was really sad. There are collectors that would love to have a vintage Thunderbird but not this 64-ish. I mean what was the guy thinking? He had if for sale and last time I rode by it was still there. Go figure. tbird 2